Lessig’s Wake

The New Yorker has a wonderful story on the James Joyce estate, and it’s overprotective keeper, Stephen Joyce (the author’s grandson). My erstwhile academic home, SUNY Buffalo, features prominently due to its Joyce library.

The article suggests that the estate, with the aid of the most recent extension of copyright, has a stranglehold on the scholarly discussion of Joyce’s work. As a result, many academics are avoiding writing about the author or his works because of the threat of legal action.

Lessig has taken up the cause of one of those scholars and plans to use this as an example of how the temporary monopoly granted to authors can be abused. It will be interesting to see how the case shapes up, and what kinds of impacts it has on copyright law. A win here would not only set a precedent for fair use, it would weigh against the next effort to extend copyright yet again.

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